The short story is a breed of fiction that writer Tobias Wolff once described as “the perfect American form.” Keep it under 1,500 words, and you might call it the perfect perfect American form: short short stories, or “flash fiction,” a style that compels writers to craft a piece at its most human basics—the true marrow of the tale—offering powerful vignettes in a single sitting. (After all, legend dictates that Ernest Hemingway once wrote a masterpiece with a mere six words: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”)
From a batch of some 6,380 entries, Writer’s Digest editors selected Lee Hubbard’s “We Sat in the Darkness” as the grand-prize winner of the 9th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Hubbard’s story, chosen for its clean style and poignant observations, is an 846-word meditation on life from a young soldier at war. An Army veteran, former lawyer and current “professional dilettante,” Hubbard describes his writing technique as semi-autobiographical.
“I almost always begin with something that has hurt me, given me joy or broken my heart,” he says. “But that’s only the starting point. The characters grow out of my experience and develop their own personalities.”
While he’s a produced playwright and once penned an episode of “NYPD Blue,” Hubbard’s one-for-one on competitions—the Short Short contest is the first the Los Angeles–based author has entered, and he’s taking home $3,000 and other prizes as a result.
How’s Your Short short Game?
You could be next. Enter your bold, brilliant and brief fiction (1,500 words or fewer) in the 10th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. The deadline is Dec. 1, 2009, and the entry fee is $15 per story. Mail yours to: Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. For more information or to enter online, visit writersdigest.com. To receive a book containing the full manuscripts from the top 25 winners of the 2008 competition, send a check or money order for $8 to: The 9th Annual WD Short Short Story Collection, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990.
The Short List
The 9th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition attracted approximately 6,380 entries. Judges Gina Ochsner, Debby Mayne and J.A. Konrath helped narrow down the field. The Writer’s Digest editorial staff selected and ranked finalists.
1. “We Sat in the Darkness” by Lee Hubbard, Los Angeles
2. “A Fisherman’s Wife” by Richard Cass, Brookfield, Conn.
3. “Broken Down” by Susan O’Neill, Brooklyn, N.Y.
4. “Hands” by Ericka Clay, Corpus Christi, Texas
5. “Casserole Platelets” by Arlene Somerton Smith, Nepean, Ontario
6. “Waiting for the L” by Dawn Boeder Johnson, Stillman Valley, Ill.
7. “Curtis, Alone and Aging” by B.F. McCune, Denver
8. “Mighty Dog” by Laura Robinson, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
9. “Lifeberry” by B.D. Allen, San Antonio
10. “And Then the Skies Burned Red” by Josh Aldy, Madison, Miss.